Review - Eighth Grade
Updated: Sep 26, 2020
Eighth Grade was Bo Burnham’s directorial debut, as well as his first narrative screenplay. The film stars Elsie Fisher in the leading role, as well as Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson, and Jake Ryan, telling the story of a fourteen-year-old girl living through her last week of, you guessed it, eighth grade.
This plot seems horrible on the surface. It is, by definition, a “coming of age” drama set in an American middle/high school, protagonized by an angsty teen. On a technical level, Eighth Grade is cliché in every fashion. But somehow, in some way, it all works.
Let’s start off with the obvious: Elsie Fisher’s performance. Only on very special occasions are children in reality cast as children in films and TV shows. This is one of those occasions. The actress portraying our lead character immediately embodies the tone and feel the film is going for. Fisher’s performance is so stellar, it’s quite shocking that she hasn’t been cast in many other major roles.
But with for a great performance, there must be a great director. Naturally, Eighth Grade is no exception. Bo Burnham’s obvious passion for the project and clear ambition as a filmmaker are seen in the film. Riddled throughout, we can just tell that we are watching the work of an aspiring master. He has created a world where everything is as seen in reality; the “realism” factor is on another level.
Following Burnham’s directing, lets discuss his dialogue. It is simply stellar. I have not seen a film capture this amount of realism in a very long time, and doubt I will see it again until Burnham strikes back with his next feature. Every single child in this film talks, acts, and reacts like a normal teenager would react in the situations they are experiencing. Every adult in the film is also portrayed extremely realistically, specifically the role of the main character’s father. The writing also seamlessly weaves events together, crafting a supremely interesting story on a topic that would otherwise be fairly plain and boring.
Where Eighth Grade falters is with its more “advanced” aspects. Besides the score being great (probably worthy of its own paragraph), and the editing being absolutely genius, the cinematography, set design, sound-mixing, and other important details feel rather unfocused on. It is very clear Burnham put his all into the acting and writing of the film, succeeding in crafting a world realistic down to the bone, leaving some other more “insignificant” aspects in the dark.
Besides this, however, Eighth Grade is a perfect film to watch in quarantine to remind ourselves how awful socializing is, and well worth buying for full retail price.
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